Leonie Walker describes herself as a farmer with a cause. Besides working the land she is the mother of two adult sons, each with a different form of intellectual disability. As a country woman, she knows first hand about the challenges of finding support for people with disabilities in regional Australia.
‘Bringing up two children in Western Australia’s wheat belt, both with a disability, made me realise how limited the services are for people outside the metropolitan area,’ she says. ‘Parents of children with disabilities have no one to turn to when they themselves need help or relief.’
This realisation motivated Leonie to try and help other parents in the same plight in rural and regional areas.
She has worked as a volunteer for many years, attempting to improve access to disability services. This includes her service on the Board of the Disability Services Commission and the Ministerial Advisory Council for Disability Services.
For her selfless and caring service to the community and her support for other parents of children with disabilities she was awarded Australia’s Centenary Medal in 2001.
Disability services can be confusing and fragmented, says Leonie. With an ageing population in Australia the pressure on them is liable to increase. ‘We have to look at the person with a disability as a whole person, and be able to draw on funding and services as they are needed,’ she says.
The Centenary Medal honoured people who have made a contribution to the nation or their locality, enabling the community to express its gratitude to those who have laid the foundations for our future.
The Medal was a commemorative medal to mark the first century of Federation in Australia and is no longer awarded.
See: Centenary Medal